P.E.I.'s policy of sending women off-Island for abortion services infringes on the rights of disadvantaged women, according to a study released Wednesday evening.


UPEI psychology professor Colleen MacQuarrie would like to see abortions performed on the Island. (CBC)

Study author Colleen MacQuarrie, a UPEI psychology professor, spent the last two years interviewing more than 100 people: including doctors, activists, and women trying to access abortion.

Since 1981, surgical abortions have not been performed on P.E.I. Island women must go to Halifax or Fredericton. The province still pays for abortions in hospital in Halifax, but anyone wanting the procedure must travel.

"Travel/transportation and other expenses are the patient’s responsibility," says Health PEI's abortion services web page.

MacQuarrie said that policy creates bigger problems for some women than for others.

"Poorer women, marginalized women, people with fewer resources are harmed more by the barriers that are in place," she said.

"Harm is not borne equally across all women … We're experiencing various forms of delays and resulting harms to their health."

Those harms include women trying to induce abortion themselves.

MacQuarrie hopes these findings of her study will change public opinion and provincial policy, so that publicly-funded abortions can be performed on-Island.

"Continuing the status quo is an infringement on women's equality rights," she said.

Ashley Fraser of the Abortion Rights Network said it's important for public opinion on the Island to change.

"It's a small place, where everybody knows everybody, so the same kind of privacy isn't allotted here as in bigger places," said Fraser.

"The stigma is a really big problem here."

Until the time when abortions are available on the Island, the study suggests the province should subsidize costs for women who want to go to the private clinic in Fredericton.